Thursday, 20 June 2013

Strawberry Lemon Yogurt Loaf

I wanted to make something for my dad for Father’s day.  A consideration for anything I bake for my dad is that it needs to be butter free.  Remember these angel food cupcakes I made for him? Butter free!  The great thing about cakes that use oil instead of butter is that it they stay moist since oil is liquid at room temperature.  (I guess on the flip side, butter brings that nice buttery flavour to baked goods.)  I decided on a lemon yogurt loaf – and why not throw in some strawberries and jam?

Check out the verdict on this Strawberry Lemon Yogurt Loaf!

Strawberry Lemon Yogurt Loaf
Adapted from here.

1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup plain full fat yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 large eggs
2 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup diced strawberries
1/3 cup jam, any flavor
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and grease and flour the sides.
2.  Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
3.  Beat yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla until smooth.
4.  Add flour mixture and mix slowly until almost incorporated.
5.  Pour in oil and fold in by hand with a spatula.
6.  Fold in diced strawberries.
7.  Spoon some batter into the loaf pan.  Dollop jam on the batter.  Spoon more batter on top, then dollop more jam.  Repeat a few more times.  Top with a few strawberries for a nice presentation.
8.  Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  If using a bigger loaf pan than mine, it might only take about 60 minutes.
9.  While baking, make syrup by heating lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
10. When done baking, cool for 10 minutes.  Drizzle with syrup and wait until it soaks in.  You can take the loaf out the pan and drizzle any remaining syrup on the sides and bottom.
Dollops of jam

Ready to bake

Verdict: This loaf turned out super moist and flavorful!  The bits of strawberry and jam inside the loaf gave it different bursts of berry flavor amongst a lemon cake.  My dad really like it, especially since it didn’t have any butter.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Magic (custard) Cake

I was going to a meeting to scope out a non-profit organization as I was thinking about joining their board of directors.  The organization is called Craftworks and they support people with disabilities by providing craft therapy.  I wanted to bring a snack to the meeting, and although I wanted to bring something yummy and interesting, I didn’t want to scare people off with weird flavor combinations that seem to only appeal to some people (e.g., chips in a rice crispy treat anyone?).  I thought it was a good opportunity to try making the Magic Cake that’s so very popular on the baking blogosphere these days.  Have you heard of this?  You make one batter and it separates into 3 layers upon baking!  Sounds awesome!

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Magic (custard) Cake
Adapted slightly from here. 

½ cup unsalted butter
2 cups milk
4 eggs separated, brought to room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
150g icing sugar
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or good quality vanilla extract)
1/8 teaspoon salt
115g flour
¼ cup toffee bits and finely chopped chocolate (optional)

1.      Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2.      Melt butter in the microwave, and leave to cool.
3.      Warm milk in a saucepan to lukewarm. Set aside.
4.      Beat egg whites until a bit frothy.  Add cream of tartar and beat until stiff.  Set aside.
5.      Beat egg yolk and sugar until light.  Add vanilla and salt and beat until mixed.
6.      Add butter and water and beat for 2 minutes.
7.      Add flour and mix until incorporated.
8.      Pour in milk and whisk until smooth and incorporated.
9.      Fold in egg whites 1/3 at a time, using a whisk.  It will have some small lumps of whites.
10.   Pour in prepared baking pan – it will be very runny.  Sprinkle toffee and chocolate on top.
11.   Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden and the middle is still a bit jiggly.
12.   Cool, then refrigerate until cold. Store in the fridge.
Stiff egg whites.

Yolks and sugar.

After adding flour.

After adding milk.

After folding egg whites.

Before and after baking.

Verdict:  The cake was pretty cool looking with the 3 distinct layers – the top fluffy layer, the custard middle, and the stiff bottom.  But honestly, this cake was a disappointment for me.  Although the vanilla flavor was great and the custard middle was smooth and creamy, the bottom layer was rubbery and unappetizing. I thought that the toffee and chocolate would sink to the bottom and make a nice crust like it did for other people who’ve tried it, but it never happened and they really didn’t add anything in terms of flavor or texture.  Although I won’t be making this cake again, most of the folks at the meeting seemed to like it, and so did the boyfriend taste tester!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Funfetti Art Birthday Butter Cookies

My good friend who lives in Toronto was approaching her birthday and I wanted to send over some cookies.  I made her these pretzel banana chip cookies last year, but wanted to send her a new spin on her favorite – the butter cookie!  What says celebration more than sprinkles and a cake?  I decided to add sprinkles in the batter and use a tiered cake cookie cutter for the shape.  These should ship well, plus the cookies taste better after a few days.  It’s fun sending her little packages.  I hope she’s surprised!

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Funfetti Art Birthday Butter Cookies
Small batch

½ cup salted butter, softened
½ cup + 2 Tablespoons sifted icing sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla syrup
½ an egg
1¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon sprinkles

1.    With a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
2.  Beat in vanilla syrup and eggs.
3.  Whisk flour and baking soda in a bowl.  Gradually add into butter mixture.
4.  Mix in sprinkles (10 seconds).
5.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
Dough chilled and ready to roll.

To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
6.  Take a small portion of the dough and roll out to 1/8 inch thick and cut out using cookie cutters.  Only roll out small portions of the dough at a time as re-working the dough will make the colours of the sprinkles bleed and turn the dough grey.
8.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden.  Cool on rack.
Before baking.

After baking.

Verdict: I super liked how the sprinkles created streaks in the dough when I rolled it out!  It reminded me of ’80’s designs!  Kind of art-y.  These are my all-time favorite cookies, and they did not disappoint as usual.  Buttery with nice vanilla aroma. My friend was surprised by and enjoyed the package! Success!